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He Says: So in Love am I with Roundabout’s Kiss Me Kate



It’s a glorious return, this Roundabout Theatre revival of Kiss Me Kate. “So in Love” is all I can say about this “Too Darn Hot” musical, written by Samuel and Bella Spewack (1938’s Leave It to Me!) with music and lyrics by Cole Porter (Anything Goes). It swings its backstage door wide open right off the bat, flying the festivities forward on a whole slew of talented dancing feet as “Another Op’nin, Another Show” is ushered on the vocal strengths of Adrienne Walker (Disney’s The Lion King) as Hatti, the backstage mistress to the stage star. The musical treat hits it high in the sky, and keeps this clever musical version of William Shakespeare’s The Taming of the Shrew neatly wrapped up beautifully within a musical that soars strong until the happy ending. My heart skips a beat when the phenomenal Broadway leading lady star, Kelli O’Hara (Broadway’s The King and I) saunters in and takes her dutiful place center stage. Her presence lets us know that all is good in this Baltimore theatre, especially when that perfectly pitched voice of hers sings forth.  This is only just the opening number of this very fun festive delight of a show, perfectly cast (although I had my doubts walking in) and staged to delight, song after fantastic song. Thank you Cole Porter, I’m eternally grateful.

1035r_John Pankow, Will Chase and Lance Coadie Williams in KISS ME, KATE, Photo by Joan Marcus 2019

I must admit that I generally find some of the musicals from the 1940’s time period, a bit ‘dusty’ and repetitive, like South Pacific and the never-ending reprises that are not so enchanting as some, but Kiss Me Kate never feels stodgy, at least not as directed here at Studio 54 Theatre with buckets of bravado by Scott Ellis (Broadway/RTC’s She Loves Me) and choreographed with style and finesse by Warren Carlyle (Broadway’s After Midnight). This on and off-stage deliriously fun conflict of a show, reminiscent of the 1978 screwball musical, On the 20th Centurywas Porter’s brilliant response to Rodgers and Hammerstein’s Oklahoma! (another Broadway bound show that I can’t wait to see this spring), and other musicals of its time, integrating the music and lyrics to connect firmly to the book. It’s twisted and fun, this musical version of The Taming of the Shrew, strutting and bouncing out front, while backstage the battle that lands somewhere between love and hate rages on almost more intensely than out front.

0264r_Kelli O'Hara in KISS ME, KATE, Photo by Joan Marcus 2019

So Kiss Me Kate, because in the beginning, middle, and end, it’s all about the star power within the show within a show, and with Kelli O’Hara as Lilli Vanessi playing the Shakespearian shrew, Katharine singing out the gloriously  funny “I Hate Men“, one can hardly go wrong. I wasn’t sure going in that O’Hara would be up to the sharpness of playing the snappy shrew, as I think of her as that lovely lady from The King and I, but I was completely mistaken. She rises to the level of goddess with the long ringlet hair; some solid work by hair and wig designer, David Brian Brown (Broadway bound Moulin Rouge!), throwing herself into the fights and tantrums with aggressive haughty delight.  She flings herself headfirst into the conflict so perfectly with her ex-husband, Fred Graham, who also plays her Shakespearian co-star and suitor, Petruchio, dynamically portrayed by the gloriously voiced Will Chase (Broadway’s Something Rotten!), creating a chemistry so on fire, that it’s obvious they should either kick or kiss. Chase is so wonderfully arrogant and mischievous in his role (s),  gifting us with the hilariously smart “Where is the Life that Late I Lead” leading us down a path quite happily to do battle for everything this dashing theatrical hero holds dear. Kudos to fight directors Rick Sordelet and Christian Kelly-Sordelet (Broadway’s Wolf Hall) for their hard and detailed work. At times I worried about the game and gifted O’Hara, fearing that the stage star might come face to face (not in a good way) with that glorious stage that she is so worthy to stand upon. Please be careful with this dynamo, we need her to survive.

0236r_Will Burton, Rick Faugno, Stephanie Styles and Corbin Bleu in KISS ME, KATE, Photo by Joan Marcus 2019

Secondary to the screwball dynamics of two powerhouse ex’s acting out to our delight their aggression, there is also Lois Lane, the actress playing Bianca, played to the wide-eyed hilt by Stephanie Styles (RTC’s Kingdom Come). This lady is a true star in the waiting, just like she is in the musical within the musical. She scores solidly with her stellar number “Why Can’t You Behave?” aimed at her gambler boyfriend, Bill, portrayed to tap dancing perfection by the uber-talented Corbin Bleu (Broadway’s Holiday Inn). The two’s chemistry is so super fun and appealing, killing their hot song and dance number, “Tom, Dick, or Harry“, with help from Will Burton (Broadway’s Hello, Dolly!) and Rick Faugno (RTC’s On the 20th Century), tearing up the Shakespearian suitor duel with aplomb. I wouldn’t be able to choose which one either, Miss Bianca, but Styles’ Lois does tells her bad boy Bill most gorgeously, that above and beyond all of her flirty mannerisms with others, she is “Always True to You in My Fashion“, summing up her devotion to the troublemaker deliciously. All Bleu’s Bill can do in reply is give her the most ceiling-tapping extravaganza, “Bianca“, blowing the socks off all other tap dance routines as of late. With a performance like that, all must be beyond good in the backstage corridor of the spacious Baltimore Theatre, just like it is onstage out front.

1494r_Corbin Bleu, Sarah Meahl and Erica Mansfield in KISS ME, KATE, Photo by Joan Marcus 2019

Even beyond the secondary, the talent doesn’t dare falter. Terence Archie (NYCC Encores’ 1776) as the totally wrong man for Lilli, Harrison Howell, richly delivers a strong “From This Moment On” backed by the exquisite work of music director Paul Gemignani (“Mary Poppins Returns“) with orchestrations by Larry Hochman (Broadway’s The Prom). All the music rings out in an elegant and lush detail, with a jazzy panache that turns “Too Darn Hot“, as lead by Paul James T. Lane (Broadway’s King Kong), Bleu, Walker, and ensemble, into a sizzling sexy treat for the eyes and ears, secretly shining out in the theatre’s alleyway. It taps and taps its way into our souls, invigorating the humid hot air with style and sass of the resplendent.

0003r_The company of KISS ME, KATE, Photo by Joan Marcus 2019

The soft-shoeing Vaudevillian “Brush Up Your Shakespeare” performed with joyous delightfulness by the wonderful John Pankow (TNG’s The True) and the engagingly funny Lance Coadie Williams (Broadway’s Sweat) is another fine fun moment, taking us back to the good ol’ days of Broadway and acts of this nature. Kiss Me Kate is just that kinda show; one of the finest old musicals around. And lucky for us, it is getting a spectacularly solid revival by Roundabout. The show first premiered in 1948, winning the first Tony Award for Best Musical, and was Porter’s only show to run more than 1,000 performances on Broadway. The first Broadway revival in 19999 starred Marin Mazzie, Brian Stokes Mitchell, Amy Spanger, Michael Berresse, Ron Holgate, Lee Wilkof and Michael Mulheren, and won the Tony Awards for Best Revival of a Musical and Best Actor in a Musical for Mitchell, with the lovely and talented Marin Mazzie receiving a Tony nomination for Best Actress in a Musical, and Michael Berresse, Lee Wilkof and Michael Mulheren receiving Tony nominations for Best Featured Actor in a Musical. I remember that production, and although I only have small flashes of its fun, this modern revival shines just as bright or even brighter. With a glorious set by David Rockwell (Broadway’s The Nap), sharp colorful costumes by Jeff Mahshie (Broadway’s Next to Normal), warm and glowing lighting by Donald Holder (Broadway’s Oslo), and clear and solid sound design by Brian Ronan (Broadway’s Mean Girls), the show and its cast doesn’t miss one well placed pratfall or prance. It’s stylish and swanky, overflowing with handsome suitors, talented beauties, and one gorgeous shrew, each and everyone worth their weight in comic screwball gold. I’m sure this Kiss Me Kate will be back wrapping its strong arms around another batch of Tony nominations late next month, kissing and hugging them with love. Love does always win, in the end.

0175r_Preston Truman Boyd, Stephanie Styles, Corbin Bleu and Justin Prescott in KISS ME, KATE, Photo by Joan Marcus 2019

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My love for theater started when I first got involved in high school plays and children's theatre in London, Ontario, which led me—much to my mother’s chagrin—to study set design, directing, and arts administration at York University in Toronto. But rather than pursuing theater as a career (I did produce and design a wee bit), I became a self-proclaimed theater junkie and life-long supporter. I am not a writer by trade, but I hope to share my views and feelings about this amazing experience we are so lucky to be able to see here in NYC, and in my many trips to London, Enlgand, Chicago, Toronto, Washington, and beyond. Living in London, England from 1985 to 1986, NYC since 1994, and on my numerous theatrical obsessive trips to England, I've seen as much theater as I can possibly afford. I love seeing plays. I love seeing musicals. If I had to choose between a song or a dance, I'd always pick the song. Dance—especially ballet—is pretty and all, but it doesn’t excite me as, say, Sondheim lyrics. But that being said, the dancing in West Side Story is incredible! As it seems you all love a good list, here's two. FAVORITE MUSICALS (in no particular order): Sweeney Todd with Patti Lupone and Michael Cerveris in 2005. By far, my most favorite theatrical experience to date. Sunday in the Park with George with Jenna Russell (who made me sob hysterically each and every one of the three times I saw that production in England and here in NYC) in 2008 Spring Awakening with Jonathan Groff and Lea Michele in 2007 Hedwig and the Angry Inch (both off-Boadway in 1998 and on Broadway in 2014, with Neal Patrick Harris, but also with Michael C. Hall and John Cameron Mitchell, my first Hedwig and my far), Next To Normal with Alice Ripley (who I wish I had seen in Side Show) in 2009 FAVORITE PLAYS (that’s more difficult—there have been so many and they are all so different): Angels in American, both on Broadway and off Lettice and Lovage with Dame Maggie Smith and Margaret Tyzack in 1987 Who's Afraid of Virginai Woolf with Tracy Letts and Amy Morton in 2012 Almost everything by Alan Ayckbourn, but especially Woman in Mind with Julia McKenzie in 1986 And to round out the five, maybe Proof with Mary Louise Parker in 2000. But ask me on a different day, and I might give you a different list. These are only ten theatre moments that I will remember for years to come, until I don’t have a memory anymore. There are many more that I didn't or couldn't remember, and I hope a tremendous number more to come. Thanks for reading. And remember: read, like, share, retweet, enjoy. For more go to


Broadway’s A Doll’s House Meticulously Stunning Revival Soars Like a Birdie Above That Clumsy Cat on a Hot Tin Roof




For a revival to find its footing, it has to have a point of view or a sense of purpose far beyond an actor’s desire to perform a part, whether it suits them or not. It needs to radiate an idea that will make us want to sit up and pay attention. To feel its need to exist. And on one particular day in March, I was blessed with the opportunity to see not just one grande revival, but two. One was a detailed pulled-apart revolutionary revival of Henrik Ibsen’s A Doll’s House that astounded. The other, unfortunately, was a clumsy revival of Tennessee Williams’ Cat on a Hot Tin Roof that fell lazily from that high-wired peak – not for a lack of trying, but from a formulation that never found its purpose.

Jessica Chastain in A Doll’s House. Courtesy of A Doll’s House.

But over at Broadway’s Hudson Theatre, a reformulation chirps most wisely and wonderfully, bringing depth and focus to a classic Henrik Ibsen (Hedda Gabler) play that I didn’t realize was in such need of an adaptation. With no extravagance at its core, Amy Herzog (Mary Jane) dynamically takes the detailed structure and beautifully adapted it with due purpose. It hypnotizes, dragging in a number of light wooden chairs, Scandinavian in style, I believe, onto the stage, one by one, by their black-clad counterparts in a determined effort to unpack what will unfold. There is no artifice to hide behind in this rendering, as designed most impeccably by scenic and co-costume designer Soutra Gilmour (NT’s My Brilliant Friend; Broadway’s & Juliet) and co-costume designer Enver Chakartash (Broadway’s Is This A Room), only A Doll’s House’s celebrated star, Jessica Chastain (Broadway’s The Heiress; “The Eyes of Tammy Faye“) rotating the expanse of the bare stage before the others join her slowly and deliberately. She sits, arms crossed, staring, daring us to look away, while knowing full well we won’t. Or can’t. And without a word, it feels like she has us exactly where she wants us. Needs us to be. And all that transpires before the play even begins.

They sit on that bare and stark stage, waiting, in a way, to be played with, like dolls patiently wanting some children to come and give them a voice through their imagination. As Nora, Chastain delivers forward a performance that is unparalleled. To witness what transpires across her face during the course of this extra fine adaptation is to engage in a dance so delicately embroidered that we can’t help but be moved and transported. She barely moves from her chair, as others, like the equally wonderful Arian Moayed (Broadway’s The Humans) as Torvald, are rotated in to sit beside her, conversing and delivering magnified lines, thanks to the brilliant work of sound designers Ben & Max Ringham (West End’s Prima Facie), that dig deep into the underbelly of the complicated interactions. This pair of actors find a pathway through the darkness, never letting us come to any conclusions until they are ready to unleash a moment that will leave you breathless. This is particularly true for Moayed’s Torvald, who seems decent enough at the beginning, but once the shift occurs, when the beautiful thing doesn’t happen as it should, his unveiling is as gut-wrenching to us as it is to Nora. Even though we knew it was coming long before the play even began to spin forward.

Arian Moayed, Jesmille Darbouze, Okieriete Onaodowan, Tasha Lawrence, Jessica Chastain, and Michael Patrick Thornton in A Doll’s House. Courtesy of A Doll’s House.

The art of the unfolding is steeped within the whole, refocused inside the brilliant shading, shadowing, and starkness of the cast. As Krogstad, the powerful Okieriete Onaodowan (Broadway’s Hamilton), alongside the deliciously tight Jesmille Darbouze (Broadway’s Kiss Me, Kate) as Kristine, find an engagement that sits perfectly in the structuring. They push the reforming to the edge, approaching and receding away from Chastain’s brilliant centering helping move the piece towards the required conclusion.

The same can be said of the wonderful Tasha Lawrence (LCT’s Pipeline) as Anne-Marie, and the exquisitely emotional turning of Michael Patrick Thornton (Broadway’s Macbeth) as Dr. Rank. Thornton, in particular, finds a telling and emotional space to connect, unearthing an engagement that breaks the circle apart, leaving Chastain’s Nora and all of us observers shattered and broken in its black X’d finality.

As directed with the same magnificently detailed energy and flat-walled framework as the previously seen Betrayal on Broadway and the West End, Jamie Lloyd gives us A Doll’s House that will never be forgotten. The focus is so deliberate, and the formulations are just so strong, pushed forward in black and white by the exacting lighting design of Jon Clark (West End/Broadway’s The Lehman Trilogy). Forced while remaining ever so intimate, the cascading of the statement delivered registers in a precise way, more exacting than I ever remembered, and I’ve seen numerous renditions of this epic play. And even though, from what I hear, many on the left couldn’t see the epic exit of Nora, a moment that typically registers throughout theatre history, the symbol of a woman, steadfast and true, leaving the safe and simple artifice of A Doll’s House for engagement in the hard cruel reality of the world outside is as clear as can be. The delicacies of this birdie trapped inside a cage, poisoned with lies and excuses, and beautifully brought forth by Chastain, registers the reasonings for this revival to exist. It has found a new and deliberate place to sing, and for that, I am truly grateful.

Arian Moayed and Jessica Chastain in A Doll’s House. Courtesy of A Doll’s House
Matt de Rogatis in Ruth Stage’s CAT ON A HOT TIN ROOF. Photo by Max Bieber.

I wish I could say the same about Ruth Stage‘s modern take on the Tennessee Williams (A Streetcar Named Desire) classic, Cat on a Hot Tin Roof, currently being re-delivered at the Theatre at St. Clements. As directed by Joe Rosario (Hemingway and Me; Ruth Stages’ The Exhibition), the play doesn’t find its rationale for existing in the modern day beyond the simplistic sexualization of its boxing-ring corners. Matt de Rogatis (Austin Pendleton’s Wars of the Roses) as the tense athletic Brick stays broken and damaged in his corner, riding out the moment, waiting for the click, while in the other corner is the tense Maggie, played without hesitation by Courtney Henggeler (Netflix’s “Cobra Kai“) poised and ready for the bell to ring.

The battle is only heightened by the presence of two other fighters in the opposing corners, Big Daddy, played with determination by Frederick Weller (Broadway’s To Kill a Mockingbird) in the third, and Big Mama, played with a strong intent by Alison Fraser (Gingold Theatrical’s Heartbreak House), in the fourth. And watching and cheering for their own personal perspective wins are the obnoxious Mae, typically portrayed by Christine Copley (although I believe I saw an understudy), the weasely Gooper, played by Adam Dodway (Theatre Row’s Small Craft Warnings), Rev. Tooker portrayed by Milton Elliott (Ruth Stage’s Hamlet), and Doc Baugh, typically played by Jim Kempner (“The Girlfriend Experience“) (although, once again, I believe I saw an understudy).

Frederick Weller and Alison Fraser in Ruth Stage’s CAT ON A HOT TIN ROOF. Photo by Max Bieber.

Generally, this is a battle that rages deceptively strong and subtle for the length of the play, swimming cruelly in the hazy heat of its Southern charm. But somewhere in this modernization, the reasonings never get fully realized, leaving the cast to wander in their stereotypical delivery without a sharp focal point in the horizon to zero in on. Hidden behind the bar and the drink, de Rogatis finds a Brick to be engaged with. He’s definitely handsome and desirable, especially in the eyes of the far-too-straightforward Henggeler’s Maggie the Cat, and his occupation of drinking rings more true than most. I’m not sure if the modernization has been created to fit his chest-baring delivery of a broken Brick, but I will say that his artful approach to the part is one of the stronger components of this otherwise clunky reimagining.

Given so much to unpack, Henggeler runs a little too fast and furious, not weaving a pause into her thoughts and actions. It’s all forward flowing, ignoring the laws of silence and deliberation. Big Mama and Big Daddy, ignoring the fact that they don’t seem to fit in with their surroundings or the set-up, find their way into the same cage as the two central figure fighters, giving us something else to contemplate in their constructs, beyond their tight fitting jeans and dress. There’s not much of a father/son connection, nor does their familial energy register, even as it moves and twitches within the pauses well. The details of attachment are lost, as they talk around things, with everyone else playing at high volume, courtesy of a sound design by Tomás Correa (Hudson Street’s Adam & Eve), delivering the Southern drawl with the intensity of an SNL skit. That’s a problem to the whole and one that doesn’t work for this rendering.

Courtney Henggeler in Ruth Stage’s CAT ON A HOT TIN ROOF. Photo by Max Bieber.

Most of the cast is all hock and no spit, moving around the room with a strange case of physicalized mendacity while never really finding a reason for their existence. The artifice gets in the way of the movement, especially in Matthew Imhoff’s (off-Broadway’s soot and spit) busy and overly clumsy set, with some distracting fading in and out by lighting designer Christian Specht’s (SSTI’s Cabaret). The storm approaching is as false as the formula and the reasoning for this retelling. It showcases some basically good actors embracing the chance to play iconic Big roles that I’m sure they have always wanted to dig their Southern-accented chomps into, possibly because one or two of them might never otherwise get the chance as they don’t exactly fit the literal sashaying of the “fat old” bodies out and around the staging of this play. The idea breeds curiosity, but one that doesn’t save this Cat on a Hot Tin Roof from falling quick and hard from its perch, I’m sad to say. While the birdie in A Doll’s House flies strong out into the cool Broadway air, with solid reasoning on its stark wings, reminding us all what makes for a worthy reimagining of a classic.

Frederick Weller in Ruth Stage’s CAT ON A HOT TIN ROOF. Photo by Max Bieber.
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Relevantly Tuneless Fairytale Bad Cinderella Isn’t Bad, It’s Forgettable



You are seriously asking for it, when you make the title for your musical Bad Cinderella, however the show is  not bad, it’s just seriously lacking. For an Andrew Lloyd Webber musical, which is normally rich in melody, the only song that has any kind of hold is “Only You, Lonely You” sung by Prince Sebastian (Jordan Dobson or in my performance the wonderful Julio Ray). The lyrics by David Zippel and book by Emerald Fennell, adapted by Alexis Scheer are inane. It doesn’t help that the cast for the most part speaks and sings with mouths full of cotton. The orchestrations sound tinny and computerized, The lead Linedy Genao has no charisma or vocals that soar musically, instead she is rather nasal, like Bernadette Peters with a cold. Why this show is two and a half hours long is beyond me.

Grace McLean and the hunks Photo by Matthew Murphy and Evan Zimmerman

The show is based in a town called Belleville (beautiful town en Francais), that is based solely on looks and prides itself on its superficiality. The opening number starts with “Beauty Is Our Duty,” the Queen (a fabulous Grace McLean) is into her hunks including her missing son Charming (Cameron Loyal).

Christina Acosta Robinson Photo by Matthew Murphy and Evan Zimmerman)

And the fairy godmother (Christina Acosta Robinson) is a plastic surgeon who sings “Beauty Has a Price”. In a day and age, where we are suppose to see past all that, this show is politically incorrect.

Linedy Genao Photo by Matthew Murphy and Evan Zimmerman

Cinderella a Gothic, and a graffiti artist, naturally does not fit into the town’s mold of beauty, which is how she earns her nickname. Her rebel move happens when she defaces a memorial statue of Sebastian’s older brother, Prince Charming. Sebastian is more of a geek, and he and Cinderella are in the “friend zone,” since both lack communication skills in admitting their love.

Carolee Carmello Photo by Matthew Murphy and Evan Zimmerman

Sebastian is being forced by his mother, the Queen to find a wife at a ball and invites Cinderella. Cinderella’s stepmother (the always remarkable Carolee Carmello) blackmails the Queen to get one of her daughters Adele (Sami Gayle) or Marie (Morgan Higgins) the gig.

Grace McLean, Carolee Carmello Photo by Matthew Murphy and Evan Zimmerman)

McLean and Carmello are the bright spots in the show and if the show had been about these two, maybe we would actually have a show that could work. These two steal the show.

Linedy Genao, Jordan Dobson, Photo by Matthew Murphy and Evan Zimmerman

Cinderella has not one, but two what should have been show stopping numbers “I Know I Have A Heart (Because You Broke It)” and “Far Too Late,” but she does not have the vocals, the character development or the star power to carry them off.

The set and the revenge porn costumes by Gabriela Tylesova, are just over the top, with the storybook set faring much better than the over complicated flowered pastels that waltzed across the stage.

The direction by Laurence Connor is just dull and lacks oomph.

If you like buff men and Chippendale type choreography this is the show for you.

Bad Cinderella, Imperial Theatre, 249 West 45th Street.

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Did You Know There Is A Kander & Ebb Way?



On Friday, March 24th, the 96-year-old John Kander was given a Mayoral Proclamation from Mayor Eric Adams in celebration of the first performance of his new Broadway musical New York, New York. Following the proclamation, Lin-Manuel Miranda unveiled the sign renaming 44th Steet ‘Kander & Ebb Way. On hand was the Manhattan School of Music to performed the iconic Kander & Ebb song “New York, New York.”

New York, New York opens Wednesday, April 26, 2023 at Broadway’s St. James Theatre (246 West 44th Street).


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